Capital Planning & Budget

University of Wisconsin System Capital Assets

The University of Wisconsin System has approximately 1,814 buildings totaling 60 million gross square feet of space with replacement costs of nearly $9.8 billion.  This accounts for 63% of the total state-owned facilities in Wisconsin.  The Board of Regents holds title to approximately 18,000 acres of land throughout Wisconsin, the majority of which has been donated to the university and is deed restricted for research and nature preserves.  About 4,600 acres comprise the main campuses of the 13 universities.   

While the portfolio of UW System facilities includes buildings from the mid-1800s, approximately 70% were constructed in the last 40 to 50 years.  Most of these buildings were built to 30-year life expectancy standards and are in need of significant maintenance and renovation.

The University of Wisconsin System has made significant investments to meet maintenance needs through biennial capital budgets in recent years however, a backlog continues to grow. In order to address this backlog, the state and universities are investing in major remodeling projects of entire facilities.

Capital Budget

The quality of education depends on careful integration of academic, financial, and facilities planning.  Long-range physical planning for the universities of the University of Wisconsin System is an ongoing process that is designed to provide appropriate facilities in response to the dynamic environment of higher education.  Each university has a campus master plan that defines overall land use patterns, identifies potential phased construction needs, and serves as an illustration to ensure cohesive, aesthetic development that is compatible with the community and the environment.

Campus master plans reflect the needs of students, faculty, staff, and the local communities as identified through extensive stakeholder engagement. Each university has established campus planning committees that involve the various affected entitites within the institution to clarify the university's requirements and priorities. Additionally, separate committees are established for the implementation of individual major projects, which include representatives of the proposed facility's user groups.

UW System recieves funding for building projects through the State capital budget process.  Facilities requests from all institutions are aggregated and prioritized into a systemwide facilities request. These facility needs are addressed as the incremental implementation of the universities' master plans as capital funding becomes available over multiple biennia. Master plans serve as the basis of an institution's facilities request. Each university establishes it's individual institutional physical development priorities, which are evaluated and combined to form the UW System Physical Development Plan.

The six year campus physical development plan aids the university by identifying long‑term program directions and describing their effect on the institution's facilities needs.  The UW System Physical Development Plan is created to satisfy the requirements of Sections 16.84(6) and 13.48(6) of the Wisconsin Statutes.

The UW System Office of Capital Planning and Budget is responsible for formulating a biennial capital budget request for consideration by the Board of Regents.  Once approved by the Regents, the budget request is submitted to the Department of Administration’s Division of Facilities Development (DFD).  The division prepares a capital budget request for all state agencies and introduction by the Governor in the biennial budget process.

There are three primary sources of funding for capital projects.

  • General Fund Supported Borrowing (GFSB) state-issued bonds repaid with GPR
  • Program Revenue Supported Borrowing (PRSB) state-issued bonds repaid with UW program revenue
  • Gift and Grant funds

Construction and maintenance projects are approved in two chief categories:

  • Major Projects – costing $760,000 or more require specific enumeration
  • All Agency Projects – costing $185,000 or more require Building Commission approval and are financed with capital maintenance funds

(Note: Building Projects – costing less than $500,000 that are funded entirely from the proceeds of gifts and grants are delegated to the Board of Regents.)

State of Wisconsin Building Commission

The State of Wisconsin Building Commission is an eight-member body consisting of the Governor, three senators and three representatives, and one citizen member who is appointed by the Governor.

The Building Commission is subdivided into two Subcommittees: a Higher Education Subcommittee and an Administrative Affairs Subcommittee. The Higher Education Subcommittee is responsible for reviewing building program requests of the University of Wisconsin System. The Administrative Affairs Subcommittee is responsible for reviewing building program requests of all other state agencies.

Every two years, as part of the biennial budget process, the Building Commission recommends to the Legislature a state building program, which includes a list of projects and funding sources to meet the state’s capital improvement and maintenance needs over the following two-year budget cycle.

The All Agency program, provides funding to the Building Commission to support general categories of repair and renovation projects. UW System is given a funding allocation from which to request specific projects for construction. It manages these requests on a competitive basis and submits projects to the Division of Facilities Development and Building Commission for approval.

As required under WI Stats. s. 13.48 (7), the Building Commission’s capital budget recommendations are forwarded to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance by the first Tuesday in April.  The  committee reviews the recommendations and may modify them before incorporating the capital budget into the biennial operating budget.  Both houses of the Legislature consider the capital budget as part of their biennia budget deliberations.

Implementation of the Building Program

After projects are approved in the capital budget the Building Commission again reviews and approves each project at 35% of design completion.  Upon recommendation of the campus and System Administration, the Division of Facilities Development (DFD) solicits, selects, and contracts with an architectural or engineering firm to prepare preliminary designs. When the preliminary design work reaches 35%, a design report is prepared that describes the proposed design, budget, and schedule.  Before construction can proceed, the Building Commission must approve the design report. If it is approved, the contracted firm completes final construction documents and DFD solicits construction bids. State statutes require that contracts be awarded to the lowest qualified responsible bidder, unless the Building Commission has approved an alternative method.

All building projects in excess of $185,000 must be approved by the Building Commission prior to construction.  For projects under this threshold, the DFD is authorized under the Small Projects Program, as described in WI Stats. s. 13.48 (10), (29), to design and bid projects upon request of the universities.